Veterans' home-stay project becoming popular
Aimed at establishing a chain of home-stays Plans to set up 1,000 of them in three years
Kozhikode: Tourism promotion has never had it so good in God's own country. It is now being given a boost from unexpected quarters retired men-in-uniform of the defence force.
Launched two months ago, the veterans home stay tourism project is fast spreading its wings across the State. "Our networking is strong and we are going to be the biggest tour operators in Kerala," Colonel K.B.R.Pillai, State general secretary of Ex-servicemen Tourism Development Organisation (EXTO), which is spearheading the project, told The Hindu here.
The project is aimed at establishing a well-knit chain of home stays in the State. EXTO, having its headquarters in Kochi, has already appointed district executive officers to coordinate and supervise the scheme at the district level.
Brigadier K. John Kuruvilla is the State president of EXTO and Squadron Leader V. Damodaran Nair is the district executive officer in Kozhikode.
Any ex-service personnel who can spare a decent room with attached bath, preferably with independent access, in a neat locality can associate with the project. The owners are required to look after the needs of the tourists, including food, local transportation and sightseeing on additional charges. "The only investment is modifying a room for tourists," said Colonel Pillai.
He said that the Director General Resettlement, Ministry of Defence, had approved the project to be implemented all over the country and it was also recognised by the Department of Tourism in the State.
"During the first stage of the project, we have restricted the number of units to 30 in each district. When the tourism season starts next month we will have almost 300 home stays of our own in the State. We have already received a large number of bookings," he said.
Plans are afoot to set up 1,000 home stays in the next three years in the State. The process of conducting awareness seminars on the project is going on in all districts.
Kerala ranks fourth in the number of ex-servicemen among all States in the country. The "Grahasthali' scheme now promoted by the State Government can be specialised by the EXTO in a big way, he said.
Individuals and entrepreneurs have successfully implemented home stay tourism in Kovalam, Kumarakom, Fort Kochi, Kumbalangi and Wayanad.
Kozhikode District Collector A. Jayatilak, who inaugurated a seminar in this connection in Kozhikode on Saturday, feels that the attitude of tourists is changing globally.
"Tourists want to experience local culture. They want to know and experience a day in the life of a Keralite. Tourism of the sun, sand and sea has switched over to experiential tourism," he said.
Grahasthali is popular with a section of tourists desirous of staying with local people and participate in their events and other festivities, Colonel Pillai said.
Apart from that, he says that the project would provide opportunities for ex-servicemen to expand their activities after retirement.
In fact, they would be better equipped to promote tourism internationally since they have the qualities of discipline, organizing abilities, communication skills and fluency in different languages, including English. Special training in tourism management will also be imparted to them, he adds.
Besides, he says that most of the children of ex-servicemen are outside the State or country. They could also act as tourism ambassadors of the State. Their good relationship with colleagues and friends can give an impetus to the tourism industry, hopes Colonel Pillai.